One of my top tips for supporting language development is to create opportunities for communication. This post is a bit different, as it isn't an activity per se - its about something that I have recently come to realise is a brilliant communication opportunity. There's a bit of a baby wearing back story to follow here; sorry if that isn't your thing!
For the first 4 months of his life, N spent a lot of time in a stretchy Close Caboo wrap, carried by either me or my husband. It was a great way of keeping him calm and one of the only places we could get him to sleep. When he outgrew it, we invested in an Ergo 360. This is a really well made, ergonomic carrier, but it wasn't right for my frame. I carried him in it a handful of times but the straps hung off my shoulders and it really hurt my back. Naively, I decided he was simply too heavy to carry.
In May of this year, we made a somewhat crazy decision and booked a family trip to Japan. The more reading I did, the more I came to understand that lots of the places we want to visit simply aren't buggy friendly, and I realised we would need to find a way to carry N, preferably on our backs.
Once I began researching, I quickly became overwhelmed by the huge range of options out there. Luckily for me, an old friend who I hadn't seen in years was just launching her own woven wrap business so I contacted her hoping she might have some pointers. She gave me so much of her time and helped me make sense of it all (and I re-connected with a lovely friend in the process!) I sold my ergo and ended up with a woven wrap and a wrap conversion mei tai.
A couple of months down the line I wish I could say I am a total pro....but that would be untruthful. My wrapping skills leave a lot to be desired! I am yet to get N in a decent back carry with the woven as he is understandably not very patient with my amateur attempts, but I can carry him on my front and this is a good option for naps on the go. The mei tai though, has been fantastic. I still need to work on getting a good seat for him and there is definite room for improvement in how I position him, but the main thing is that he is up there, he is happy, and it really feels no different to having a backpack on my back - amazingly comfy!!
Anyway....the point of this post is my recent discovery of how brilliant back carrying is for communication!
With N right up on my level, he sees everything that I see. I point things out to him and name them for him, and often he will copy back the words he hears. I try to keep my language at a single word level - that is the level he is at for now, so keeping things simple gives him the best chance of consolidating his understanding of new language and learning new words. So typically, I just comment on what is around us - bird, tree, dog etc.
As he continues to learn new words, often this process is reversed; he points at things and names them, and I respond - in this case I might extend what he has said. So if he points and says 'car' I would say 'Yes, red car!'
Sometimes he just babbles away in my ear - if that happens I babble right back at him, copying whatever sounds and noises he is making. He loves this and it encourages him to babble more - we have whole jargon conversations like this.
Another huge benefit of carrying in this way is the social interaction it invites from other people. When I push N in the buggy, people might ask me his name, how old he is or tell me he is cute. But when he is on my back, people are so interested, and more often than not they interact with him. I have had people stop me in the street and in shops to say hello to him, or wave. He is a sociable little chap so he says hello or byebye and waves and smiles at people. Again, its just another opportunity for him to communicate.
I'd love to hear if other people have had similar experiences when carrying their little ones - tell me about it in the comments below!